Our Vital Need For The Power Of The Spirit
By Samuel Chadwick (1860 – 1932)
The church is the creation of the Holy Spirit. It is a community of believers who owe their religious life from first to last to the Spirit. Apart from Him there can be neither Christian nor church. “...No man can say, Jesus is the Lord, but in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3), and confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ is the first condition of membership in His church.
The command to tarry in the city until there came enduement of power from on high proves that the one essential equipment of the church is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Nothing else avails for the real work of the church. For much that is undertaken by the church He is not necessary. The Holy Ghost is no more needed to run bazaars, social clubs, institutions, and picnics, than He is to run a circus. Religious services and organized institutions do not constitute a Christian church, and these may flourish without the gift of Pentecostal fire.
The Life of the Body
The work of the Spirit in the church is set forth in the promises of Jesus on the eve of His departure, and demonstrated in the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospels tell of “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which He was received up” (Acts 1:1-2), and the Book of Acts tells of all that He continued to do and to teach after the day in which He was received up. The Holy Spirit is the active, administrative Agent of the glorified Son. He is the Paraclete, the Deputy, the acting Representative of the ascended Christ. His mission is to glorify Christ by perpetuating His character, establishing His kingdom, and accomplishing His redeeming purpose in the world. The church is the body of Christ, and the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He fills the body, directs its movements, controls its members, inspires its wisdom, supplies its strength. He guides into the truth, sanctifies its agents, and empowers for witnessing. The work of the church is to “minister the Spirit,” to speak His message, and transmit His power. He calls and distributes, controls and guides, inspires and strengthens.
The Spirit has never abdicated His authority nor relegated His power. Neither Pope nor Parliament, neither Conference nor Council is supreme in the church of Christ. The church that is man-managed instead of God-governed is doomed to failure. A ministry that is college-trained but not Spirit-filled works no miracles. The church that multiplies committees and neglects prayer may be fussy, noisy, enterprising, but it labors in vain and spends its strength for naught. It is possible to excel in mechanics and fail in dynamic. There is a superabundance of machinery; what is wanting is power. To run an organization needs no God. Man can supply the energy, enterprise, and enthusiasm for things human. The real work of a church depends upon the power of the Spirit.
The presence of the Spirit is vital and central to the work of the church. Nothing else avails. Apart from Him wisdom becomes folly, and strength weakness. Scholarship is blind to spiritual truth till He reveals. Worship is idolatry till He inspires. Preaching is powerless if it be not a demonstration of His power. Prayer is vain unless He energizes. Human resources of learning and organization, wealth and enthusiasm, reform and philanthropy, are worse than useless if there be no Holy Ghost in them.
The church always fails at the point of self-confidence. When the church is run on the same lines as a circus, there may be crowds, but there is no Shekinah. That is why prayer is the test of faith and the secret of power. The Spirit of God travails in the prayer life of the soul. Miracles are the direct work of His power, and without miracles the church cannot live. The carnal can argue, but it is the Spirit that convicts. Education can civilize, but it is being born of the Spirit that saves. The energy of the flesh can run bazaars, organize amusements, and raise millions; but it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes a temple of the living God. The root trouble of the present distress is that the church has more faith in the world and the flesh than in the Holy Ghost, and things will get no better till we get back to His realized presence and power. The breath of the four winds would turn death into life and dry bones into mighty armies, but it only comes by prayer.
The Person, Power and Work of the Spirit
The power of the Spirit is inseparable from His person. God does not let out His attributes. His power cannot be rented. It cannot be detached from His presence. He strengthens by indwelling. Spirit works through spirit. He is not simply the Giver of power. He wields it. No one else can. It is His power working in us that makes us all powerful for all the will of God. Is it not in this we so often fail? Is there not often in our praying for power more desire for it than for Him? Is it not possible to be more anxious for the achievements of power than for the Spirit of power? We want visible results, dramatic wonders, mighty works; and it is not always for these the Spirit of power is given. Power may be as necessary for silence as for speech, and as mighty in obscurity as in high places. He comes to make us effective in all the will of God. In the one Spirit there are diversities both of function and manifestation.
The work of the Spirit depends upon the power of the Spirit. No other power will do. The energy of the flesh cannot do the work of the Spirit. For His power there is no substitute. When Zion covets Babylonish gold, envies Babylonish garments, copies Babylonish ways, adopts Babylonish altars, and fights with Babylonish weapons, her strength fails because the Spirit of power is lost. Carnal resources are no asset in spiritual enterprise. The weapons of this warfare are not carnal. Prayer brings power, for the Spirit of power is given to them that pray. Testimony is a chosen weapon of conquest, and the Spirit is given for witnessing. He does not save by argued abstractions, but by living witnesses who testify with power out of the personal certainty of a living experience. It is by the power of the Spirit there comes conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The work of the church is supernatural. It cannot be done in the strength of the natural man. It is “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord” (Zech. 4:6). There is no excuse for failure, no justification for ineffectiveness, for the Spirit of God is the Spirit of power, and the gift of the Spirit is the inheritance of every believer in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Where Is the Spirit of Power?
The atmosphere of the apostolic church was charged with divine power. Their word was with power. Conviction accompanied their speech. Signs and wonders confirmed their testimony. They uncovered the hearts of evil doers, and heaven put its seal upon their judgments. Rulers trembled in their presence. The dead heard their voice. Disease fled at their touch. Devils were subject to their word. The presence of the Spirit endued men with divine authority and power. They were sure of the mind of God, for they were taught of the Spirit. They asked and received, for they prayed in the Spirit. They wrought mighty works, for they were strengthened in the might of the Spirit. The normal life of the church was filled, inspired, and empowered in the fullness of the Spirit of the living God.
There is no substitute for the Holy Ghost. The sufficiency of the church is not of men, but of God. The one vital cause of failure in the church is in the poverty of the spiritual life of its people. All the causes of our failure go back to this one common source: Do we believe in the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, the Lord and Giver of Life?
– Taken from The Way to Pentecost by Samuel Chadwick.